Discarding the four positive trainins

I refer to Unit 6 notes (page 8):
"These trainings are not to retaliate when (a) verbally abused or criticized, (b) made the target of others' anger, (c) beaten, or (d) humiliated. Since training ourselves not to retaliate in these four trying situations acts as a cause for our patience to grow, if we put this aside we damage our development of this positive trait."
I do not understand not retaliating when being beaten. My volunteer work is with women who have suffered rape and domestic abuse and I cannot see how this teaching is beneficial to them. Does one not have the right to defend themselves from attack? Could I receive help in understanding the context of this particular teaching?
Thank you.

Discarding the four positive trainins

Sorry I havent started the course, but based on Tibetan Buddhism (depending on the tradition of Nyingma, Kagyu, Sakya or Geluk) there are slightly different interpretation.

From my believe, it is not a blanket statement not to retaliate. The retaliation is not required if it involves generating a vicious cycle. Getting beaten by someone, we can choose to retaliate by beating him/his family/torching his house etc.

We can also retaliate on a positive side. It does not stop us from calling the police, going to the authorities. For a rape victim, we don't want them to become a vigilante and start shooting the rapist, but rather going through the due process of law. Defending oneself, is a positive way of breaking the vicious cycle.

In Tibetan buddhism, there are many other rituals where deities/dharma protector have been "requested" to punish offenders. One would see this as a recourse for the helpless, and sort of the modern day "police". If you take into account of this aspect, you would see that there are "punishment" implied in the culture.

Discarding the four positive trainings

I found your response very helpful. What constitutes "retaliation" is indeed the key to understanding this teaching. Holding on to anger can impede recovery. One therapist spoke to a group of women explaining that extreme actions against the abusers would only worsen their situation as they might become the one put into prison. Your interpretation corresponds to what this therapist was saying. The groups I work with steer women through the legal system and support them as they begin a new, more peaceful life. We also teach self-defense and avoidance techniques to prevent future harm. I wish there could be a Buddhist Chaplain available for us, this would be a welcome addition to our team.


Anything related to this type of teaching, the fundamental value is compassion. To fulfill this paramita you need to practice endless of struggles between the "worldly" values and the "bodhisattva" values. When people slap your right face, you get ready the left side is something beyond the "worldly" understanding. It is the practice of bodhisattva along the path of enlightenment.

Link to Karma Concept

Retaliation on a positive note, I believe, is also possible as part of practice to liberation.

Karma is from intentions (as what we've learnt). An act of not going back and shooting a rapist (from the original example) is a form of forgiveness. The intent of going to the police is already letting go the personal torment, and allowing the rules of the land taking its due course.

The in fact is a good karma, as we know that the law is to reform, not to punish a person. In letting the law take its due course, we in fact is reforming the criminal.

That's a thought.